Why do cats flick their paws after vaccination?

Original Question: On Dec 22, 2018 my two Burmese cats received their annual Rabies and FVRCP vaccines. They received Zoetis Defensor 3 and Felocell. Both cats were very lethargic following this and have not returned to their normal activity since. They no longer run around and play and are just a shell of what they once were. Since Dec 22, both cats have developed a periodic and rapid shaking of a limb, with the shaking affecting all four of their limbs. It also appears that their front limbs cramp as their leg will "freeze" as they hold it up and it appears that they cannot move it for a few seconds. I have sent videos to my vets of the episodes but they cannot determine a cause. Blood work is normal, appetite has returned to normal. No injuries to any paws or legs. Yesterday when we tried to draw blood, the vet techs had a very hard time getting any blood. There does not appear to be any precipitating events to the episodes. If I can send a video to you, it would really help to explain the symptom but I cannot it attach here. I am at a complete loss as to what is causing the shaking but they are not improving. Here is a YouTube video link in case this works - https://youtu.be/Z6C0TR2HkeU. Please help me. I am scared they have developed neurological damage from the vaccines and will never be right again. - Lisa

Why do cats flick their paws after vaccination? Jan 20, 2019

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your question.

I appreciate you sending that video. Quite frankly, there’s no way for me to know what’s going on here but I am intrigued. You need to have your veterinarian perform a physical examination but I can share some thoughts.

When I watch the video, its pretty clear that they are comfortable, alert and acting normally. I agree that the ‘paw flicking’ is not just an odd infrequent occurrence. It happens enough times in the video to suggest that something is wrong. I also find it really fascinating that it is happening in both of them but this also makes me feel more comfortable because it would suggest it’s not something serious.

If we consider causes, here are some thoughts.

  • I’ve never seen vaccines cause something like this and also, the flicking paws are primarily in the front whereas the vaccine is given in the hip. Plain and simple, this is not a symptom that is listed as a complication of vaccination.
  • One possibility that I think may be likely is that there is something bothering their paws. I can’t help but think that this type of paw flicking could be due to:
    • Pain after declawing (if that occurred but you don’t mention)
    • Foreign material on their paws such as a chemical, water, residue or irritant that they have walked on. I would consider any new floor cleaner you’re using, a spill you may have had of a sticky substance they walked through, a new litter substrate, or something like this.
  • A neurological issue would be extremely unlikely because it is happening to the same degree in both of them and even if they are related, it is still unlikely. There are uncommon and strange presentations of localized seizures that can make a limb, eyelid, jaw, etc flick or vibrate like this but again, the fact that it is presenting the same way in each of them would make this unlikely.
  • A reaction to an anesthetic would be more likely than a vaccine reaction. However, you don’t discuss any episode of anesthesia in your question. However, they appear to be the right size at 6 months which is when spaying and neutering typically occurs.

The bottom-line is this, I’m not extremely concerned and it doesn’t appear to be an emergency but I would consider having your veterinarian perform a physical examination. They can try to determine if there are any other neurological deficits or reduced reflex activity. You can always consider requesting a referral to a neurologist to confirm that there is nothing more concerning happening here.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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Why do cats flick their paws after vaccination?
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Why do cats flick their paws after vaccination?
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When I watch the video, its pretty clear that they are comfortable, alert and acting normally. I agree that the 'paw flicking' is not just an odd infrequent occurrence. It happens enough times in the video to suggest that something is wrong.
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Healthcare for Pets
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